Scripture Journal Challenge: Sufficient Grace

Today, before I sat down to write this post, I was out running errands and made a decision due to traffic to go through a parking lot I’ve avoided because of strong memories associated with Dominic.

I was suddenly overwhelmed by grief even after five years on this journey.

The tightness in my chest, tears in my eyes, empty sickness in the pit of my stomach washed over me anew.

Time absolutely does not heal a thing in child loss. It only enables me to develop skills for sublimating the horror enough to walk around among the spared.

But one thing IS better now than way back then: I’m quicker to lean into the strength and grace available to me through Christ Jesus. I’m not as resistant to the idea that my weakness is no impediment to God’s work in and through me.

I’ve stopped asking for relief and now ask for grace to bear up under the pain.

Today’s verses are taken from Paul’s pleading with God to take away what many believe to be a physical ailment-perhaps pain or weakness in his eyes-and God’s refusal to grant miraculous healing.

Three times I begged the Lord for it to leave me, but his reply has been, “My grace is enough for you: for where there is weakness, my power is shown the more completely.” Therefore, I have cheerfully made up my mind to be proud of my weaknesses, because they mean a deeper experience of the power of Christ. I can even enjoy weaknesses, suffering, privations, persecutions and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For my very weakness makes me strong in him. 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I can imagine Paul’s conversations with the Lord.

“You know I’m really on fire for You, Lord. Don’t you think I’d be in a better position to minister if You would take this pain away? It’s distracting and, well, painful! If You will heal me, I can focus on the work You’ve sent me to do. “

~ Paul

I know it’s dangerous to put words in God’s mouth but I imagine (based on Paul’s own account) that God answered something like this: “Paul, you don’t understand that part of the ministry I have for you is a demonstration that My strength is what sustains you. I don’t want there to be any doubt about where the power comes from. I’m not going to heal you but I will give you enough grace to bear up under this pain.”

I don’t think Paul really thought that was great idea-at least not at first. But as he continued to walk with the Lord and experience that sufficient grace, he saw God was absolutely right (no kidding!).

I can attest to this in my own life.

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I was afflicted with a number of health problems that forced me to admit I was not capable of meeting every obligation to and certainly not every expectation of those around me.

I didn’t like it one single bit.

As a self-proclaimed overachiever it hurt my pride to ask for help. But God’s grace eventually worked it’s way into my heart and I learned that physical weakness was truly an opportunity to proclaim God’s provision and sufficiency.

When Dom left us, I was struck down in a whole new way.

But the grace I had learned to rely on for the strength needed to endure physical pain proved more than sufficient for even this awful heartache.

It is still enough.

God’s strength IS perfected in my weakness.

Not that my weakness makes God perfect. Instead it is my weakness that makes God’s strength undeniably and unmistakably obvious.

When I choose to reveal my brokenness, unveil my weakness and testify to God’s sustaining and enabling grace, I proclaim His sovereignty, His sufficiency and His love.

QUESTIONS:

  • When have you had to admit weakness?
  • How has God’s grace met you there?
  • Do you sometimes try to hide your brokenness? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think God is glorified when we allow others to see our weakness?
  • Can you list specific instances when you felt too weak to continue and God’s grace enabled you to journey on?

PRAYER:

Lord, my pride makes me loathe to admit my weaknesses and to reveal my brokenness. I would rather people think I’m strong and unbreakable. But that’s just not true.

Help me embrace my own limitations and turn to You for your limitless grace and mercy. Help me quickly acknowledge that it is Your Spirit that breathes life into my heart and soul and strengthens me to carry on.

Strip me of false pride and bravado that might conceal how very much I rely on You. Make my life an open declaration of Your sufficient grace.

Amen.

You think, dear heart, that you are forgotten because of your nothingness and weakness and poverty. This is the very reason you are remembered.

Spurgeon

Heaven’s Song

A precious waiting mama isn’t waiting anymore.

Eight years after her son ran ahead to Heaven, she’s joined him.

And I have to think that the step from earth to Home wasn’t a huge one for her.

I have never known a kinder or gentler soul in my life. She was always encouraging other hearts, always pointing others to the hope we have in Jesus.

She never preached, she simply extended grace and love that made it absolutely impossible for anyone to ignore the difference between her and most other folks.

I only met this sweet mama once face-to-face when she and a couple other waiting mamas came all the way to my house for lunch and an afternoon of sharing and encouragement. But our friendship continued long distance through Facebook and private messages.

Our mutual love of Jesus, children and children’s books wove our hearts together in so many ways.

I am convinced that the distance between her heart and Heaven is so short because she was already singing Heaven’s Song here on earth-calling grace, mercy, strength and hope to every heart she met.

I thank God for the privilege of knowing her and am looking forward even more to that Day when everything is redeemed, restored and renewed.

Rest well, faithful servant. Dance in the joy of your Savior. Hug your son. Revel in faith made sight.

We’ll be there soon. ❤

Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.

Deuteronomy 33:12

Repost: Should I DO Something? Yes! Absolutely.

It’s possible to stand frozen at the corner of good intentions and helpful action.

I’ve done it dozens of times.

And every time I’ve allowed myself to swallow “but I don’t know what to do” and done nothing I’ve regretted it.

Every. Single. Time.

So I’m here to tell you that when you get that urge, feel that itch, hear that still, small voice that says, “DO something“, then do it.

You may already have a good idea of what it is you need to do, but in case you don’t know exactly how to make a difference in the life of a heart hanging on by a thread, here are some things to get you started:

Read the rest here:

Should I DO Something? Yes. Absolutely.

Bereaved Parents Month Post: Grace and Space

It didn’t take long after Dominic’s leaving for life to ramp up and obligations to pour in. We had two graduations and a wedding within two months of his funeral.

Then there were thank-you notes to write, dishes to return and every day chores necessary to manage a home and family.

No escaping what must be done.

It took me a little while to realize that if I was going to survive this lifelong journey I had to make some changes in how and when I responded to requests to do something, be somewhere or participate in outside events.   Because no matter how worthy the request, there was only so much of me to go around and I was forced to spend nearly all my energy and time and effort on figuring out how this great wound was impacting me and my family.

I cannot overemphasize how much strength and energy is needed to do the work grief requires.

At first, turning down a request or asking someone to reschedule was relatively easy-the loss was fresh in their minds and they were gracious and understanding.  As the weeks and months and now YEARS have passed, it is harder…

Read the rest here:  Grace and Space

On Suffering and Redemption

If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.

~Julian of Norwich

Truth is this life is not easy.

There is joy. 

Absolutely amazing awe-inspiring, breath-taking joy.

But there is also suffering. 

Utterly devastating, heart-breaking suffering.

Mark then, Christian, Jesus does not suffer so as to exclude your suffering. He bears a cross, not that you may escape it, but that you may endure it. Christ exempts you from sin, but not from sorrow. Remember that, and expect to suffer.

~C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Morning

When I ponder the pain of child loss, it helps to remember that Jesus suffered too.

Not just at the end, when He allowed evil men to crucify Him, but throughout His life when friends abandoned Him, people tried to kill Him, religious leaders mocked Him and sought to destroy His reputation and work.

It helps me to know that my wounds and scars, like His, will be transformed from evidence of pain and loss into a testimony of grace and redemption.  

The cross is both the symbol of our salvation and the pattern of our lives. Everything that happened to Christ in some way happens to us. When darkness envelops us and we are deaf to everything except the shriek of our own pain, it helps to know that the Father is tracing in us the image of his Son, that the signature of Jesus is being stamped on our souls. For Jesus, the darkness of night gave way to the light of morning.

~Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus

When Thomas doubted, Jesus didn’t perform another miracle or call down angels from Heaven to testify on His behalf.  He said, “Here, touch my wounds.”  

I don’t know what that felt like for Thomas, but it was the only proof he needed to believe.

And while Christ accommodated Thomas, He spoke a special blessing on those who would not have such proof.  

blessed are those who believe without seeing

I have doubts some days too.  

There are moments when suffering washes over me like a flood and I am swept under with the tide.  

It’s then I cling tenaciously to the promise that my wounds, like Christ’s, will one day not only be proof of pain but also evidence of God’s redemptive power. 

Could it be that God will wipe the tears from our eyes, but not from our memories, that the renewed experience of the glorified saint will be to recall those sadnesses with the transforming joy which God’s presence and God’s disclosed providence will bring? Surely part of our praise in heaven will not merely be that we are now saved, but that we have been saved, that the very title of being those who have conquered means that our memory of victory will include a transformed awareness of what the whole battle meant.

What a difference this could make to my suffering. The scars I bear in my body, my mind, my soul, the adversities and setbacks, the pains that may yet await me before I get to heaven, the relational wounds, the memories from which I struggle to recover, the darkness of doubt and the battles with unbelief, will not necessarily be removed when I get to heaven, but they will be redeemed, they will be transformed by the long view that being perfected in the presence of my perfect God will bring. What an experience it will be to probe the scars, but to no longer feel their pain – to see them as contour lines of God’s grace by which I ascended into glory. What could it mean for my wounds to sing his praise, for my scars to record his perfections, for my memory of old pains to be set in the context of a new and never failing joy. That makes suffering sufferable now, and glory all the more glorious then.

~Andrew Roycroft, Thinking Pastorally blog, 6.23.19

 

 

Walk Gently Among Your Fellow Humans

One of the most interesting (and best) pieces of advice on relationships I ever read was this:  Imagine the person with whom you contend as an infant or a very elderly individual.  

Try it. 

Pick someone who rubs you the wrong way every which way to Sunday and think about him or her as a tiny baby or a frail and feeble grandparent. 

I’ll wait.  

Did you feel some of the hostility melt away when the image of your “thorn in the flesh” as a helpless human came into focus?

It works every time for me.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t have to address any underlying issues between me and whoever.  But it does tame the mean and vengeful out of me.

It makes me tender when I talk to a friend or family member about a testy topic.  It helps me be kind to the cashier who has picked now to count out her drawer just as it’s my turn after I’ve been waiting in a long line.  It moderates my reaction from road rage to a more appropriate and safe, “Oh, well!” when cut off in traffic.

It makes it easier for me to be gentle. 

Gentle:  1. having or showing a mild, kind or tender, temperament or character; 2.  moderate in action, effect or degree; not harsh or severe.

~Google Dictionary

Truth is we are surrounded every day by people who are one unkind word away from falling apart.  We drive down the highway with strangers whose lives are filled with pain.  We work and eat and worship and play with folks who carry wounds we know nothing about.

walk gently tree bark

I don’t have to understand everything about someone to appreciate that there is more than meets the eye.  All of us have scars and secrets, stress and strain, unmet needs and unseen struggles. 

So I try to give the benefit of the doubt, assume the best, extend grace, be humble, choose love.  

I want to walk gently among my fellow humans.  

At minimum I hope to do no harm.  At best I hope to encourage another heart to hang on and keep trying.  Most of the time I probably fall somewhere in between.  

be soft

 

 

 

 

When It’s Hard to Give Yourself Grace

My little congregation is hosting a volunteer team blessing us with a new roof for our leaking sanctuary.

What would have been absolutely impossible if we had to rely totally on our own resources is happening right now!

The week after my daughter’s wedding.

fiona and brandon down the aisle

Which means that I am especially exhausted as well as depleted emotionally, mentally and physically. 

I’m simply unable to participate like I want to and feel I should.

I’ve brought food up to the church each day but I can’t stay to help serve because my family is still doing leftover wedding tasks.  My heart is torn between what I know I have to do and what I would like to do.  And it’s impossible to do both.

It’s so much easier for me to extend grace to others in similar situations.  I am often the first to say, “Don’t worry about it!  We’ve got it covered!”, and mean it.  The last thing I want to do for any struggling heart is add to the burden.

Yet here I am, knowing full well that the smart thing, the right thing and really the only thing I can do is accept the same grace from others I’ve extended in the past and I can’t stand it!

I’m pretty sure it’s pride stopping me from admitting my limitations.  I’m pretty sure it’s selfish ambition that goads me into trying to finagle a way to be in two places at once.  I don’t want to be the one person who didn’t show up all week, meet the volunteers and tell them face-to-face how very much we appreciate them.

How my heart can twist things!

These past six months have been hard ones.  Goodness-the past almost two years have been one crisis after another, more travel away from home than in the decade before, more heart-stopping, mind-blowing moments and challenges than any other season since the first year after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

And still I will cling to my pride.

I need to accept the abundant, overwhelming, free-flowing and never-ending grace of Jesus.

I do no one any good by refusing it.

Least of all me. 

god opposes the proud humble hands